Avoid Boscov's Department Stores

Boscov's Department Stores use opt-out instead of opt-in for their e-mail advertising. A few days ago, I received a message from them at a temporary throw-away e-mail address. The message read, in part:
DEAR VALUED BOSCOV'S CUSTOMER: boscovs.com would like to send you periodic e-mails filled with valuable promotions. In the future, we would like to send you information and offers that we know our customers find valuable. ... If you ARE INTERESTED in receiving e-mails from us YOU DON'T NEED TO DO ANYTHING and you will start receiving your money saving offers. If you are not interested in receiving e-mails please use the link at the base of this email. If you'd like to receive our e-mail at another address, please Click Here:
I sent a complaint to Boscov's CEO and got a response from a customer service rep which read, in part:
Our system is set up as "opt out" because the vast majority of our online customers wish to receive our weekly sale notifications. It is our intent to make "opting out" as easy and upfront as possible.
I called the rep for more information. He said that the default setting, on some web form, for receiving advertisements used to be off, but they received calls from so many people complaining that they had missed out on one sale or another that they changed the default to being on. When I asked the rep how they measured that "vast majority", he couldn't provide a useful answer. It doesn't really matter. His response was contradicted by the original message which clearly demonstrated that they weren't e-mailing me because I forgot to uncheck a box on some web form. They had my address and they were informing me that they planned to start sending me spam, whether I wanted it or not. If I didn't, it was my responsibility to ask them to stop. I will no longer do business with Boscov's. If you dislike unsolicited commercial e-mail, I encourage you to avoid them, too. Be sure to let them know why.

We're number last! We're number last!

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ranked the U.S. last among 19 leading industrialized countries in deaths that could have been prevented by access to timely and effective healthcare. You can read the Reuters article or visit the school's site for the actual report. Here are responses from some of our politicians:
  • "Their methodology was wrong. We're actually number 1 in timely and effective deaths."
  • "Socialized medicine is not the answer."
  • "For that matter, neither is affordable healthcare."
  • "I'm still alive, so what's the problem?"
  • "Stay the course!"
  • "Mission accomplished!"

Texas: the Death Star State

The Associated Press reports on a man freed after 26 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. This is the 15th case since 2001 in which a Dallas County inmate has been freed by DNA evidence. Texas is far and away the leading state when it comes to capital punishment. In fact, then Texas Governor George W. Bush joked about it during one of the 2000 presidential debates. (Many people failed to see the humor, but that's George for you.) Yet, articles like the one mentioned above force us to consider how many of those executed convicts were actually guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. It defies all probability to think that we have not executed many innocent men and women over the past centuries. As much as some criminals deserve to die for their crimes, I'm not willing to have my government execute innocents in my name. I have to wonder how many Texans feel the same way.

Poor Design, Wasted Time

One of my pet peeves is poor web site design and implementation. Here's one example of screwing it up multiple ways. The Entertainment book offers 2-for-1 dining coupons and other types of discounts. I've purchased the book in past years, although I tried something else last year. Entertainment is now offering their 2008 books at a reduced price, so I decided to buy one. Most online purchases are easily done in a couple minutes. Not so here. First problem: After adding the book to my cart, I went to checkout. They kindly offer to use my existing account information to simplify the process, so I entered my e-mail address and password and clicked the sign-in button. "Wrong username or password," the site responded. I clicked on the forgotten password link and they promptly e-mailed my password, which was exactly what I thought it was. Tried signing in again. No go. Went to the site's home page and tried using the login link there. Same results. Tried a couple different browsers. No dice. I finally called customer service. After talking to Joel for a few minutes and waiting on hold while he did some research, I was informed that I couldn't access my account until after I bought the book without signing in. Question 1: Why offer the sign-in option if I can't use it? My account still existed; otherwise, they would not have had a password to e-mail to me. So now I've wasted close to 30 minutes on somebody else's incompetence. I'm slightly annoyed. I returned to my anonymous cart and checked out as a new user. The purchase went fine, but as soon as I completed the transaction with my existing e-mail address, they knew exactly who I was and greeted me like an old friend. Gee, thanks. Second problem: Now that I've purchased -- and registered, they say -- my shiny new book, would I like to print out some coupons I can use right away? Actually, I would. I found one for a good local restaurant and clicked the print button. Nothing happened except for the web page to say that it is printing. Tried it again. Same result. Tried several different browsers, including IE on Windows. Still no luck. Tried it from a different computer. No go. I called customer service again and reached Charlie. We discussed the situation for several minutes before he, too, placed me on hold while he researched the problem. In the meantime, my wife is wondering how soon I'll be able to eat dinner, which is on the table and waiting for me. After several more minutes of waiting, Charlie returns to announce the verdict: I cannot print any coupons until I receive the book in the mail and register the card number that comes with it. Question 2: Why did the web site say the book was registered immediately after I purchased it? Question 3: Why did the site offer up multiple coupons I could print immediately after I purchased it if I really couldn't print them? We'll see what happens when I get the book and register it (again?) on the site. In the meantime, the incompetence of those in charge of Entertainment's web site have wasted about an hour of my time and annoyed a repeat customer. I really doubt that I'll be buying another Entertainment book. As they say, that's Entertainment!

Chapter One

I am born.

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